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High-Caffeine Drinks Pose Growing Health Hazard

Amidst lax regulatory environment, consumption of high-caffeine drinks has increased sharply

THURSDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The growing popularity of high-caffeine content energy drinks has resulted in an increasing number of reports of caffeine intoxication, and an increase in the combined use of caffeine and alcohol, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Chad J. Reissig, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, write that high-caffeine content energy drinks with caffeine levels ranging from 50 mg to 505 mg per can or bottle are aggressively marketed, primarily at young males, and are subject to lax regulation, particularly in the United States.

Vulnerability to caffeine intoxication may be higher in children and adolescents because they are not habitual caffeine users and therefore have low pharmacological tolerance, the researchers note. Genetics may also play a role in vulnerability to caffeine intoxication, and there has been a sharp increase in the combined use of caffeine and alcohol, which may increase the rate of alcohol-related injury, the authors state.

"Several studies suggest that energy drinks may serve as a gateway to other forms of drug dependence," the authors write. "It is important for clinicians to be familiar with energy drinks and the potential health consequences associated with their use. Recognizing the features of caffeine intoxication, withdrawal and dependence may be especially relevant when treating younger persons who may be more likely to consume energy drinks."

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